American Conservatory Theater today announced the lineup of the company's 42nd subscription season. Running from September 2008 to July 2009, the season "brings new plays, the nation's finest writers, fresh directors, and renowned performers to San Francisco, while presenting a carefully calibrated range of decades, aesthetics, and perspectives, ranging from dark comedy to serious drama, from movement-theater fusion to music-filled celebration."
"I'm thrilled about the season we've been able to assemble," says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. "This season is filled with juicy, edgy, and contemporary pieces from playwrights we have an affinity for—such as Tom Stoppard, John Guare, and Edward Albee—as well as exciting performers like Judy Kaye who are at the absolute pinnacle of their profession. And we're always proud to present work that is irreducibly theatrical, work like War Music that makes the most of language, music, and movement and that couldn't be replicated in any other medium."
A.C.T.'s 42nd season opens in September with the West Coast premiere of Tom Stoppard's latest and most personal work, Rock 'n' Roll, which recently finished hugely successful runs in London and on Broadway. "Tom's latest play is very sexy and very personal," says longtime Stoppard collaborator and friend Carey Perloff, who will direct the production. "Rock 'n' Roll draws us into the lives of individuals who are trying to carve out a little place for themselves amid the bureaucracy and horror of Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. This play testifies powerfully to the fact that art can change a culture and change history." This new production will transfer to Boston's prestigious Huntington Theatre Company directly after the conclusion of its run at A.C.T.
The season continues with Emmy Award winner Jane Anderson's earnest and quirky drama The Quality of Life. The show's star-studded cast features Dennis Boutsikaris alongside Laurie Metcalf and JoBeth Williams, who play cousins confronting loss and survival in the face of explosive circumstances in the aftermath of the fires in the Oakland hills. The Quality of Life comes to A.C.T. in a newly revised version following its world premiere production at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse.
A.C.T. ushers in the new year with a toast to raucous laughter, producing the first major revival of legendary playwright John Guare's Rich and Famous, a "wacky funhouse ride" through the disturbed unconscious of an ambitious playwright as he struggles against hilarious odds to make his 844th play a success. Guare will be making revisions expressly for this A.C.T. production. "I'm a huge fan of John's work," says Perloff, "and I'm tremendously happy that he'll be working with us to update this wildly funny text."
The momentum gathers with the season's next offering, Souvenir, showcasing Broadway star Judy Kaye (A.C.T.'s Sweeney Todd) in a role that earned her a 2006 Tony Award nomination and a new generation of die-hard fans. A heartfelt portrait of Florence Foster Jenkins as told by her accompanist, played by Donald Corren, Steven Temperley's hit play depicts a wealthy socialite with all the ambition and means to succeed as a classical soprano—except a voice. "This piece—which is based on historical fact—about a woman's indomitable will to be an artist, even when she's not, both amuses and rings true. We're especially happy to welcome Judy Kaye back to A.C.T., a performer with incredible brass and vulnerability, and who is a terrific model for all of our students."
As spring comes around, A.C.T. turns its gaze simultaneously to the past and the future, re-enlivening our classical heritage while putting Homer's timeless tale of the conquest of Troy in an exciting new theatrical form. War Music, in a world premiere production commissioned by A.C.T., is the union of renowned poet Christopher Logue's modern take on the Iliad with star director and adaptor Lillian Groag's famously irrepressible theatricality, recently seen in A.C.T.'s The Rivals. Aligned with A.C.T.'s commitment to fusing movement, music, and language in new theatrical forms, Groag has turned Logue's adaptation of Homer into a groundbreaking work of interdisciplinary art. "Lillian has created a wonderful work that is in keeping with the sense of the theater of war," says Perloff, "populated by characters that range from soldiers in the trenches and generals at their council tables to gods on Olympus. War Music is a pungent meeting of the ancient Greek and modern worlds."
A.C.T.'s embrace of powerful new writing closes with new works by two of America's most important contemporary playwrights. On the heels of A.C.T.'s hugely successful world premiere of José Rivera's Brainpeople, the theater is proud to host Rivera's newest play, Boleros for the Disenchanted, a decades-spanning, ravishing tale of two generations of Puerto Ricans. Rivera explains that, "Boleros for the Disenchanted is about the commitments that men and women make to each other. The play examines the life cycle of a marriage—its beginnings and its end— and embraces the comedy and tragedy in between."
A.C.T. closes out its season with a bang, presenting the West Coast premiere of master playwright Edward Albee's Peter and Jerry. A work that dares to reimagine and reframe The Zoo Story, an unquestionable American classic, Peter and Jerry rocked Broadway last season, and it is sure to make an indelible impression on Bay Area audiences. "In this revealing, smart, and disturbing look at a marriage, Albee has managed to make us understand what drives Peter to that infamous park bench," says Perloff. "In doing so, he has revivified one of the great classics of the 20th century."
The nonsubscription presentation of Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh's adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol returns during the holiday season, featuring new revisions and actor James Carpenter reprising his role as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Season subscriptions are now available via the A.C.T. subscriptions office. For a season brochure, please call A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2250 or log on to www.act-sf.org. Subscriptions for all seven plays start at $101, for five plays at $85, and for four plays at $70. Educators and administrators are eligible for half-price subscriptions. Subcriptions to A.C.T. include convenient ticket exchanges, guaranteed best seats, ticket insurance, easy prepaid parking, and—new this year—seat upgrades.
Single tickets for all of A.C.T.'s productions in the 2008–09 season will be available beginning late August.
A.C.T. is supported in part by Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, the Next Generation Campaign, and the National Endowment for the Arts.